They say that in show business, you should never work with kids or animals. You never know what they are going to do next. Sometimes, however, you should not play with animals either—particularly if you are playing sports. In a competitive match, even the littlest thing can mean the difference between victory and defeat, so most players would rather there was no disruption. But as I said, you never know what an animal is going to do next.
Here are ten times that animals decided that they would get involved in a sporting event with results from the funny to the painful to the tragic.
10 Bees on the Pitch
In 2019, the Young Africans were facing off against Iringa United at Uhuru Stadium in Tanzania when their football match was rudely interrupted in the 53rd minute. Thousands of bees descended on the pitch. Anyone who has ever heard the hum of an angry hive will understand why the players suddenly threw themselves on the ground at the arrival of the unexpected away team. Several players were stung, and some of the crowd fled the stadium to avoid the same fate. Play was eventually resumed, and the Young Africans managed a 4-0 triumph.
Oddly this is not the only time that bees have attacked football matches. In 2012, a match had to be called off in the UK after the referee was stung and suffered a severe allergic reaction, which he thankfully recovered from. A Brazilian match in 2011 had to stop for 20 minutes while a swarm of bees was removed from one of the goals.
9 Alligators Love Golf
Golf is essentially a game involving hitting small balls a long distance with an oddly shaped implement toward awkwardly placed holes. Its saving grace is that it is usually played in a beautiful place and is a great excuse to spend some time outside. A small problem comes when you place your golf course in a place that is already home to other animals.
In Florida, alligators can be found wherever there is a suitably sized body of water. What do lots of golf courses have? Water hazards—though they become even more hazardous when an alligator decides to move in.
Social media is full of surprisingly large alligators wandering across the fairway and disrupting games. The best advice is to give the animals a lot of space and wait for them to do whatever they want to do. In a fight between an alligator and a golf club, the reptile will probably come out on top.
2 Bear Wants to Play
Lots of sports teams name themselves after powerful animals like bulls, jaguars, and lions as if taking the name of the animal will improve their prowess. Usually, though, these animals steer clear of sports. Bears, another popular mascot, are a bit more inquisitive and have dropped in on a number of sporting events.
In the video above, you can see a bear wandering along the fence at a baseball game. Many in the crowd were probably considering just how flimsy the fence was and whether it could stop a bear as well as it stops a ball.
Bears also have a fondness for golf. In one case in Alaska, a bear wandered onto the green when a group of golfers were trying to complete their game. It pawed at the flag before giving the golf bags of the players a sniff, despite the shouts of the golfers. To the chagrin of the players, it grabbed something and sauntered back into the woods. What a bear does in the woods is its own business.
7 Dog on the Pitch
A dog is man’s best friend, but it may not always be a footballer’s. There have been several cases of dogs invading pitches while a football match is being played. In the video above, a stray black dog made its way into a game underway in Georgia. Seeming to think the players were just having fun, it joined in and spent three minutes dashing about and rolling over for belly rubs.
In Bolivia, in 2020, a shaggy dog made its way onto the pitch and managed to pick up a football boot to play with. The boot was swiftly recovered, and the dog had to be carried from the game by one of the players before play could resume.
Just this year, a dog invaded the pitch during an international women’s football match being played between Chile and Venezuela. In this case, the dog got pats and belly rubs from the goalkeeper and referee before it was escorted away.
6 Kangaroo on the Track
Australia is famous for the range of dangerous animals that infest the continent. Even the cute kangaroo can pose a risk. They have sharp claws, are quite muscular, and can be aggressive. They are particularly dangerous to drivers as they move quickly and make for a mighty crash if they get hit. Which makes it particularly unfortunate that the Bathurst racetrack has a bit of a kangaroo problem.
Drivers there are aware of the kangaroos, but accidents still happen. In 2004, Jim Richards collided with a kangaroo at high speed. The kangaroo was killed instantly and tossed into the air while Richards’s car suffered a lot of damage. For the remaining laps, the other drivers had to dodge the remains of the animal.
5 Rabbit Joins Play
Rabbits are quite fearful animals and, thus, do not usually hang around when surrounded by people. But there have been cases when, stumbling into a game of baseball, they decided to join in the fun and go for a run around. In a game between Sioux Falls Canaries and the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, the rabbit seems to have been living nearby and stopped in to run around third base and approached some of the players. When one got in the rabbit’s way, it performed an impressive jump and dodge.
In another example of rabbits wanting to try their hand at baseball, one made its way onto the field while the Iowa Cubs and the Memphis Redbirds were playing. It resisted all attempts to lure it off, and play had to be suspended until it made its escape.
A very lucky, or unlucky, depending on your view, rabbit made its way to a greyhound race once. These dogs are trained to run by chasing a mechanical bunny, so when a real one shot out in front of them, they swiftly changed course to try and catch it. The rabbit escaped unharmed but was probably quite alarmed.
4 Fox Is Repeat Thief
It turns out that some animals are hardened criminals who enjoy a bit of theft. Foxes are well known for their habit of stealing everything from shoes to phones to wallets if they come across them. It should come as no surprise then that a number of golfers have found their balls getting nibbled by an inquisitive fox. In several cases, the foxes have run off with their prize, leaving the golfer feeling emasculated.
At the Canyon River Golf Course in Montana, there was a resident fox who loved nothing better than darting out and snatching up a golf ball before carrying it off. One golfer described how it was funny the first time, still a novelty the second time it happened, but by the third act of pilferage, he found it annoying. Luckily for the fox, most of the golfers found it charming to have their own little golf buddy who might come out to play. The fox became a mascot of sorts for the course.
3 Seagull Steals Ball
The Players Championship is one of the golf tournaments on the PGA Tour. Usually, the most that players have to worry about at the Players is a member of the crowd doing something a little uncouth and shouting out mid-swing to put off your game. In 1998 Brad Fabel faced a more direct act of sabotage, however.
He had just hit his ball onto the green on the 17th hole when a seagull that was lurking nearby decided to investigate. After a bit of pecking and kicking, the bird managed to pick the ball up and fly off. Unfortunately for the gull, it lost its grip on the golf ball and dropped it into the water.
Fabel was allowed to place a new ball at the spot it had landed without a penalty. Perhaps the bird had gotten into his head, though—he ended up getting a bogey on the hole.
2 Pine Marten Invasion
The European pine marten is a creature a little like a ferret and can grow to over 1.5 feet (half a meter) in length. To the best of our knowledge, they are not typically fans of football, and in one case, we can definitely say that they are not fans of footballers.
In 2013, FC Zurich was playing FC Thun when a pine marten ran onto the pitch. Martens are quick and nimble, but one of the players was faster. Loris Benito, one of the Zurich defenders, pulled off a masterful dive and managed to grab the invader by its neck. This proved to be a mistake as martens have sharp teeth and are not afraid to use them. Benito was bitten on the finger, and the marten escaped.
It took the goalkeeper of the Zurich team with his thick gloves to finally, and safely, capture the animal and carry it from the pitch.
1 Bird Meets Baseball
A baseball can reach up to 100 miles per hour (161 km/h) when it is being pitched. If this strikes a player, it can cause a painful injury and fractured bones. So just imagine the damage a ball moving at that speed would cause to a smaller animal. One bird does not have to imagine.
In 2001, Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson launched the ball with no expectations that anything could happen between the moment he released and the bat. Seemingly out of nowhere, a puff of feathers exploded before his eyes. The ball had struck and utterly destroyed a bird that just happened to fly into the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time. After consulting the rule book, it was decided that the pitch could be redone.
The bird was not the last to die in this way. In one week of 2023, two birds were hit at two separate major league baseball games. Perhaps they should find another sport to watch.